The MetroBus ‘rapid transit’ bus network currently being constructed in the Greater Bristol area, including the route through Bradley Stoke, still has no operators and may need to be subsidised once services begin, the BBC has reported.
Local councils, who are funding the construction of the network with the help of government money, had planned that MetroBus services would be operated on a commercial basis, but there are now suggestions that bus companies view the scheme as being “too risky” because of the investment required to purchase large numbers of high specification vehicles and concerns over the profitability of the routes.
A spokesperson for West of England Partnership (WoEP) has, however, denied that talks with potential MetroBus operators have stalled, saying:
“The three councils involved (Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset) are actively negotiating with bus operators regarding running the MetroBus services, therefore it is not possible, as these negotiations are confidential and commercial, to say more.”
“We have always been clear, the aim is that the MetroBus services are run entirely on a commercial basis via a Quality Partnership Scheme that sets minimum standards for frequencies, quality of vehicles and maximum fares, supported by a Voluntary Partnership Agreement with one or more operators.”
“Of course, should negotiations not be successful, we have a range of back-up plans which could include formal contacts to run all or some services on a contracted basis, which might require the use of public money following a competitive procurement process, but this would depend on the situation when negotiations conclude – which all parties agree should be by mid-September.”
Most passengers will switch from other services
According to the MetroBus website, the new services are expected to carry over 20,000 passengers per day in the first year of operation, of which 2,000 will be “new passengers who choose to use MetroBus for their journeys instead of driving their car”. These figures appear to suggest that 90 percent of MetroBus passengers will be existing bus users who have transferred from existing bus services, leading to fears that some other services are likely to become unviable. This potential side effect will become even more likely if already stretched local authority bus subsidy budgets need to be diverted to fund MetroBus operations.
Other concerns are that many current bus users will find that MetroBus services won’t take them where they need to go (see below) and that the limited number of MetroBus bus stops will mean longer walks at each end of a journey for most people, posing problems for the elderly and disabled.
No direct service from Bradley Stoke to Bristol Parkway
A WoEP spokesperson has confirmed to the Journal that it will not be possible to catch a direct MetroBus service from the Willow Brook Centre to Bristol Parkway Station, as the station lies on a different MetroBus route to the one that passes through Bradley Stoke. Passengers wishing to access the station will have to continue to use the 73 service or change to the other MetroBus route at Harry Stoke and double back to Parkway.
Journal editor Stephen Horton comments
Let’s hope that the 73 service still exists once MetroBus starts running and hasn’t gone the way of the recently withdrawn X74!
This article originally appeared in the September 2016 edition of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine, delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
Postscript (29/9/16): Still no announcement from MetroBus… despite saying “negotiations should conclude by mid-September”.
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